BOSTON — Two years ago, Bernie McDaid stepped out of a police escort and into a Washington, D.C., chapel for a secret meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and a handful of clergy sex-abuse victims like himself.

McDaid left afterward believing Benedict was beginning to understand the scope of his church’s corruption. He doesn’t believe that today.

“Was it a PR move? Looking back at that now, I have to say it was,” McDaid said of the meeting. “Everything they do is not about the children. It’s about the church. It’s always the church first.”

Some allegations of clergy abuse in Europe have raised questions about whether Pope Benedict did enough to root out pedophile priests under his watch before he became pope.

The renewed scrutiny has McDaid and another abuse victim who attended the 2008 meeting with the pope re-examining its meaning and lasting impact.

Olan Horne, 50, of Westfield, believes that Benedict was sincere that day, but that it’s now apparent the pope hasn’t done enough to help victims or reform a church that’s tainted at every level.

“His feet need to be held to the fire more today than it was two years ago, that’s evident in the headlines we’re reading today,” Horne said recently. “If Jesus Christ was alive today he’d be overturning some tables.”

Horne, like McDaid, was abused by a Boston-area priest. He recalled Pope Benedict entering the room and offering the five people before him what Horne viewed as a heartfelt apology.

“We sat almost like we were in a jury box in the pew,” Horne said. “He came out and sat in front of us like he was appealing his sentence.”

Each victim had several minutes in private with the pope.


When McDaid, 54, of Peabody, spoke alone with Benedict, he squeezed the pope’s hand and implored him to do something about the “cancer” in his church.

When days passed and he hadn’t heard much from church officials, McDaid suspected the meeting didn’t mean much.

With Europe now in the grip of scandal, McDaid has begun planning a “Reformation Day” this fall at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, where he envisions people gathering to deliver that message. “I want people to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.